Inspiring Women in Fintech: Interview with Helen Child

Helen Child, Founder of Open Banking Excellence, discusses fantastic female role models, the struggle to gain funds and why courage is key.

This week we talk to an inspiring woman who has established a community of open banking and open finance pioneers from across financial services.

Helen Child is the Founder of Open Banking Excellence (OBE). This London-based fintech community was launched in 2018 and creates platforms and content that promote new thinking, partnerships and ways of working.

Helen Child, Founder of Open Banking Excellence

Along with that, she runs her own digital payments consultancy Striding Edge.

Outside of the world of payments, processing and regulations, she has sat on the Council of Lancaster University and is a founding member of the university’s InfoLab.

How and where did you start your career in fintech?

I started in fintech before the term was widely used, which dates me! I ran a Systems Integrator for ING, back in the days of Windows NT and when voice over IP was forecast as a gamechanger! I was then the founder and CEO of the first prepaid card issuer to be awarded licences by Mastercard and Visa. Everyone does it now, but it was quite a journey.

The story of OBE is one I’m particularly proud to share. I was invited to help a friend at a networking event. It was sponsored by FinTech Scotland, with guys in kilts serving warm wine to 38 intrepid fintech pioneers. What I heard excited me – the Open Banking revolution was just starting. I was asked if I’d gather everyone again to share stories and learnings, and jumped at the chance. Our global community has flourished from that humble start.

Are there any women in tech (or fintech) that have particularly inspired you?

There are a number of fantastic female role models in fintech, and in particular Open Banking. At OBE, which is a predominantly female team, we passionately believe in passing the mic to these inspiring women, who you can hear from by checking out our industry campfires.

To name a few, Charlotte Crosswell, Chair and Trustee at the Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE), was instrumental in the delivery of the Kalifa Review whilst at Innovate Finance, which is now led by the superb Janine Hirt. Moneyhub’s CEO Samantha Seaton is another star, raising more capital than any other woman in Europe last year (though it’s astonishing we still have to mark this metric). I’d also be remiss not to mention Emma Steeley, CEO of AccountScore; Jana Mackintosh, Managing Director for Payments and Innovation at UK Finance; and Edlayne Altheman Burr, Managing Director of Accenture in Brazil. All remarkable women.

What’s the most pressing issue for women in fintech today?

Female fintech founders are still struggling to gain a fair share of the funds invested in UK companies. Innovate Finance figures highlighted only 9% of total investment last year went to women.

We also need more women working in fintech. If every woman mentored two other women, we could help to change the dynamics of our sector. We’re soon launching our Appathon 2.0, an industry competition that inspires innovation. We’d love more females to get involved and will be collaborating with a number of groups to help shine a light on their talent.

What advice would you give to women looking to get into fintech? 

At OBE, we have an adage that certainly applies here: Aim high, try your best, and remember that courage is key. And have boatloads of fun along the way!

How do you think fintech solutions can help advance women’s financial health?

There’s already some wonderful wealthtech solutions available in the market, and more will be created as Open Banking extends into Open Finance, covering a wider range of products, such as investments and pensions.

True to our values of putting inspirational women in the spotlight, I’d urge people to check out Caroline Hughes, CEO of online financial planning tool Lifetise, and Aileen Mathieson, now Chief Investment Officer at Aspen Insurance Holdings, speaking at a recent OBE campfire. They outlined how the data available in the rich Open Banking environment has a massive role to play in improving women’s financial wellbeing.

You can read the previous fintech-themed interview with Amélie Arras, Marketing Director at Zumo, here.

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